#10 Villanova will host #11 Fordham this Saturday afternoon at Villanova Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30pm ET and the game will air on American Sports Network, a new channel that just debuted last Saturday. So, hopefully all the production kinks have been worked out and we don't end up with a camera staring at Butler Annex for 30 seconds.
The 'Cats and the Rams met in The Bronx in the second game of last season as well, and it was a thriller. Fordham ended up winning 27-24, so it's probably fair to say that the Villanova players have had this one circled on the calendar for a while. Like last year, Villanova will be trying to avoid an 0-2 start to the season, though this time they will have the benefit of playing at home.
Here's three things to know about the Rams:
QB Michael Nebrich hurt 'Nova last year, and he's back for more
A year ago, Michael Nebrich tore apart the 'Nova defense to the tune of 190 yards passing and 102 yards rushing (2 TDs) en route to a Rams victory. This year, he's the Patriot League's preseason Offensive Player of the Year and a Walter Payton Award watch list member. Andy Talley compared him favorably to John Robertson, and for good reason.
Nebrich wasn't sharp in week one, going just 11-26 for 188 yards, but he made it count with with 3 touchdowns on the day. In a matchup with John Robertson that may be later referenced in the postseason awards debate, he'll surely bring his A game.
There is a ton of talent back on offense
Led by Nebrich, the Rams return a lot of the star power to an offense that dropped 50+ points four times last season, and just put up 52 points on St. Francis (PA) in their season opener. Nebrich has his top three receivers back in Sam Ajala (another Walter Payton Award watch list member), Tebucky Jones Jr., and Brian Wetzel in addition to senior tight end Dan Light. All four players were named to the preseason All-Patriot League team. Ajala missed the opening game due to a Code of Conduct violation, but he'll be back for Saturday.
The big missing piece is RB Carlton Koonce, but that didn't matter much against St. Francis (PA). New starting running back Chase Edmonds set a freshman record by rushing for 181 yards and 2 touchdowns on 19 carries.
The Wildcats' defense looked formidable in week 1 against and FBS opponent, but this week looks like it will present an even tougher challenge both through the air and on the ground.
Fordham is vulnerable against the run
St. Francis (PA) isn't a program known for putting up much of a fight, but they didn't find much resistance from the Rams defense last weekend. Khairi Dickson romped his way to 244 yards on 33 carries (7.4 ypc) and the Red Flash found paydirt three times on the ground.
Last season, Villanova went with a balanced attack, finishing with nearly identical totals on the ground and through the air against Fordham. As a team, the 'Cats ran the ball 60 times against Syracuse. John Robertson and Kevin Monangai looked impressive running the ball in week one, and Andy Talley will want to play ball-control versus the high-powered Rams offense. Expect to see a heavy dose of smash-mouth football.
"We're going to have to make a marked improvement against a team like Villanova that runs the heck out of the football," said head coach Joe Moorhead.
Also worth mentioning: Senior LB Stephen Hodge, the preseason Patriot League Defensive Player of the Year, is out indefinitely with what's been classified as a "non-contact lower body injury."